SATSA conference highlights

Written by Natasha Bame

I had the privilege this year to attend the annual SATSA conference which was hosted at the Fancourt hotel in George. It was an ideal opportunity to get to know our partners and other tour operators personally, putting names to faces and building the relationships. Also, it was a great space to meet all sorts of different folk related to tourism and keep up to date with the trends and frustrations of the industry.

The content was relevant and the format of panel discussions allowed for everyone to have their say. The great rates debate had everyone agreeing that we have to continue to hold in tension, the old and the new ways of doing business – using dynamic and static rates where appropriate and accepting that there is still a need for hard copy brochures along with a greater online presence.

We discussed our part in conserving Africa’s wildlife and the value of emerging markets. Transformation and responsible tourism were key threads which provoked delegates to think about what impact they can make – right where we are, in our businesses.

All in all it was a well rounded couple of days, witnessing the relationships which have formed through the association and learning more about the different players in the game. In the minister of tourism’s address we were encouraged to keep going despite the challenges within the sector, and to continue to partner with each other as we do business.






‘Jack and the bean sprout’ | explaining electronic connections

Written by Alex Moore

For the non techy ‘Jacks’ amongst us, it’s not so easy to get our heads around how electronic connections work and we definitely don’t want to be left behind in this fast moving online world.

To try and explain the concept for those who unfamiliar with tech terms, we have drawn out the elements of connections to show how they link together.

API (application program interface)
Wikipedia defines an API as “[A] software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types. An API defines functionalities that are independent of their respective implementations, which allows definitions and implementations to vary without compromising the interface. A good API makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building blocks. A programmer then puts the blocks together.”

API’s were designed as technical communication tools to communicate between servers, programs or applications and to push existing information from one application to another.

The bridge
The bridge is a link or router that connects an API call to the principal/client (database) for which it’s supposed to be. So when an API call comes in, the bridge will know where the ResRequest client database is for that call and will route it to the appropriate server and database.

Sprout is an API converter/translator and it’s designed to store information and act as communicator between our API, ResConnect and others, such as NightsBridge‘s and SynXis‘ API. It has ‘push’ and ‘pull’ data functionality. With NightsBridge and SynXis APIs, Sprout allows NightsBridge and SynXis to pull information such as stock, rates and even create reservations. It can store up to two years of client availability and will update all transferred information every 5mins.

ResConnect is the service offered by ResRequest – this is our API which gives specialist agents and tour operators access to live availability and rates of ResRequest clients, by electronically communicating with their own internal systems and even offering the functionality to book.

OTA’s and GDS’ via channel managers
To get stock even more wider spread – online travel agents (OTA) such as and Expedia and global distribution systems (GDS) like Amadeus, can display ResRequest client inventory via a channel manager. We interface to Nightsbridge to place your rooms on these online platforms.

Going forward, we hope that you may not be too daunted to get involved with the possibilities that this magical ‘bean sprout’ has to offer.

Our future development plans include an upgrade of the user interface and sprout update failure notifications.

Why WordPress is so popular for websites?

Written by LightSpeed

What is WordPress?

WordPress is an open-source Website Content Management System (CMS). Let’s understand the meaning and advantages of a CMS, before we dig deeper into the benefits of WordPress,.

“A content management system (CMS) is a computer application that allows publishing, editing and modifying content, organizing, deleting as well as maintenance from a central interface. Such systems of content management provide procedures to manage workflow in a collaborative environment.”Wikipedia

Advantages of a content management system (CMS)

Content Management Systems have been available since the late 1990s. Some of the most popular platforms include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Let’s take a look at benefits that these platforms can offer to SMEs:

1. Self-update your website. Businesses owning traditional HTML websites rely on webmasters to make content updates. Today, the need to constantly provide up-to-date information is essential and the use of CMS platforms allow website owners to carry out these information updates themselves. With the necessary training, anyone can update content and media on their CMS websites.

2. Publishing content is easy. Creating posts in a CMS is very easy and you don’t need a technical background. If you can create content in a document (such as Microsoft Word), then you can create a post in a CMS.

3. SEO Friendly. Good Content Management Systems like WordPress succeed in complying with search engine standards. This means that your website has a better chance of ranking higher while running on a CMS platform.

4. CMS websites look like other websites: The main difference between traditional HTML websites and CMS websites is the functionality. Both types of websites look the same and users won’t be able to tell the difference. However, a CMS website allows the owner of the website to make their own edits without affecting the look and feel or layout of the site.


Suitable for all types of website. CMS platforms are not only used not only to build simple websites and blogs, but also to build complex portals and enterprise websites.

Now that you know more about how CMSs work, we’ll discuss some of the benefits when choosing WordPress as your Content Management System.

The benefits of WordPress

1. WordPress continuously improves. WordPress is a free, open-source software platform. This means that it has a community of experts constantly working to improve the system.

2. People are willing to share their knowledge with others. In an interview with Shawn Hesketh (WP101 Founder), he said: “The increasing popularity of WordPress means there is also a growing demand for WordPress training. There have never been more educational resources available for nearly every level of expertise.” Availability in training materials means that using WordPress won’t be a difficult skill to master. Therefore, using this platform as your chosen CMS will enable you to control your website easily.

3. Interest in WordPress has grown. Google Trends is a tool that shows how often a specific search term is used on a Google Search in relation to the total search-volume throughout different regions of the world. When entering the terms “WordPress”, “Joomla” and “Drupal” on Google Trends, we can see that WordPress has gained dramatic interest since 2005 (see graph below). When a platform has growing interest, it means that it is being maintained, and in turn websites built on this platform will run smoothly.

Google Trends Search comparing WordPress, Joomla and Drupal


4. High volume of WordPress users. In addition to a high volume of interest in WordPress, there is also a high volume of WordPress users out there. OpenSource CMS information provided by a browser add-on called Wappalyzer, shows that a high volume of websites using this add-on is running on WordPress (see graph below). When SMEs use platforms that are popular, they will be part of a community that will be there to assist when needed.



Marketshare via 10/10/2014


LightSpeed and ResRequest adds value to the WordPress community

Businesses using WordPress often use plugins to integrate components of software that they are using into their websites. As a result, software companies are developing such plugins in order to support their WordPress customers.

With this in mind, ResRequest has collaborated with LightSpeed, an established specialist WordPress development studio building websites since 2006. LightSpeed offers WordPress travel website solutions to companies in the tourism industry. ResRequest entered into a contracting partnership with LightSpeed to develop a plugin that can enable website owners to integrate ResRequest’s accommodation booking offerings into their existing WordPress websites without complex development tools.

The general benefits that it will provide to WordPress clients are as follows:

  • Single & multi property availability displays
  • Rate and property description displays
  • Booking functionality
  • Credit card functionality

The plugin is currently in development.


WordPress theme examples:





Introducing our new release CENTAURI

We are excited to announce our version 6.0 release, named CENTAURI. In this release are behind-the-scenes changes, including an upgrade from PHP4 to PHP5 and a database change from MySQL to MariaDB. This forms the foundation for lots of great, new modules already in development.

Also in this release is a graphics facelift. Our new graphics have been inspired by Google for a simpler, modern look, which includes new buttons, larger fonts and vector icons. Here’s a snapshot…



Have you ever wondered why we name our releases? For years creative software developers have developed code names for their releases. It’s about creative thinking, creating excitement about a release and synergising a vision for a new phase of a product.

Where our release name, Centauri, comes from. We feel that the stars evoke a desire to explore, they conjure feelings of creativity and magic. The stars inspire us with extremes of myth and science, total control but completely random and beautiful. From the name of the closest star to our solar system, Centauri was the perfect choice for this release. Of course, the fact that every geek is totally fascinated with Vulcans, Romulans, Clones and Ewoks certainly helped!

Our Centauri launch party was complete with glow in the dark decorations and gold-dusted chocolate brownies from Daniela’s.


Centauri highlights
Centauri includes great new features you’ll love. Look out for the locking of the calendar header, new report filters and an interface to Tally accounts. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store.



Full audit trail
Our crew are so excited about our audit trail enhancements that they’ve put a video together to show you what’s available to you in this release. With this nifty new enhancement you’ll be able to see details of all edits made to reservations. Along with a new report, this becomes a powerful tool for you to audit reservation changes.



Tally Accounting interface

If you’re a fan of Tally Accounting solutions, we’ve got great news for you! This release introduces a financial interface to Tally Accounting systems. This means that if you use Tally, you can seamless batch and post your invoices from ResRequest into Tally.

Of course if you use great accounts products like Pastel and Quickbooks, we’ve already got those interfaces well implemented at several clients. Just give us a call to find out how you can streamline your business processes by posting your invoices and payments straight from ResRequest to these popular accounting apps.


New web app tracks the great wildebeest migration in real-time

Want to know where the wildebeest herds are? People planning to travel to Kenya and Tanzania for the Great Migration can now track one of nature’s most spectacular events even before they get there – via a web application called HerdTracker.

Created by Discover Africa, a leading tailor-made safari operator based in Cape Town, HerdTracker plots the exact position of the wildebeest herds on a real-time Google map, using weekly updates sent in by pilots flying over Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti, safari guides, Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) rangers and lodges in the area.

HerdTracker was designed and built by Discover Africa’s own web development team using open-source software in just two months, using the idea of their East Africa expert, Carel Verhoef, a qualified safari guide who has lived in the Serengeti for ten years.

Between 2003 and 2011 Verhoef led over 300 migration safaris, and developed a deep understanding of – and appreciation for the annual wildebeest migration. While living in Tanzania, Carel also climbed Kilimanjaro nine times. His 10th assent is scheduled for August 2014.

Co-founder of Discover Africa, Andre Van Kets says that the development of the app was not overly complex.

“We’ve used open source tools and Google Maps, which has an open API, although we used our own icons, not the standard set. We’ve combined that with the human element so we’re not just posting the GPS coordinates, but the comments of our guides too,” says Van Kets. He says that the main aim of HerdTracker is to help people choose the best accommodation to stay at and when to go to ensure that they don’t miss the Great Migration.

“A safari experience is a trip of a lifetime, which can be a complex process to plan for, especially for first timers.

“We’ve developed HerdTracker to help make the journey easier for our customers.

“It’s an incredible tool that allows you to not only track the great migration in real time, but predict where the herd will be at the time of your travel,” adds Van Kets.

How HerdTracker Works

HerdTracker is your usual Google Map, modified with little pins stamped with a wildebeest.  Each pin is clickable and displays a message by the person who has sent the update (Our sources listed above).

A recent update, sent in by Captain Joel J Fernandes, a pilot for Coastal Aviation in Tanzania and flies over the Serengeti daily reads: “Morning Carel, I’ve been back for 2 days now and you won’t believe the coincidence but I was planning to mail you right now. So, they are everywhere. The trailing end are at Kogatende airstrip and the leaders just went past Seronera. They are tonnes at Lobo and Fort Ikoma. I can’t believe it but these are what I saw personally in the 2 days of flying!!!‎ So good to be back. Pics attached. Have a good one’”

Another update, sourced by Lemala Camps, a company who owns a unique collection of Lodges, Permanent Tented Camps & Mobile Camps in Tanzania says: “Hi Carel, there was a small crossing, in that the beasts started to cross, but then the vulture activity on the far bank scared the remainder and the crossing stopped. The wildebeest then gathered for a few hours and around 16:30 they crossed. It was large and was about 45 min. We worked magic and your clients, Alex and partner, were there to see it so lovely timing. I don’t have pics of the big crossing because Tabby had to leave before they crossed. I can also inform you that right now there is another gathering of them at Makutano. Regards, Veronica.”

Van Kets says that they designed the app for browsing on your phone first, rather than for desktop computers.

“We designed it to be mobile first, because if you first build a desktop version and try to shrink it to mobile, it’s really difficult. It’s better to build it for a small screen and then scale it up,” says Van Kets.

Plans for the future? Discover Africa is considering building and designing an Android app that would send updates to its users without having to visit the website.

HerdTracker’s migration updates are available to see on

They are also available on Twitter via the @HerdTracker handle.

For more information contact Andre Van Kets at, or Carel Verhoef at Or call +27 21 422 3498


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East Africa E-Tourism 2014 conference experience

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

I arrived at Nairobi airport greeted by bright yellow walls and friendly customs attendants shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’. I reminisced on my Kenya trip 9 years ago when we installed ResRequest at Governors’ Camps. At the time our greatest challenge was the modem dial up contending with at least 4 other voices shouting ‘Jambo, Jambo’ as we tried desperately to get a data transfer through.

As my taxi driver tore through the streets of Nairobi pointing out this building and that one, I was totally gobsmacked at how much the city has changed. I asked him which buildings were new and, it turns out, almost all the buildings! I oo’ed and aa’ed about all that had been built over the last 9 years. Everything looked, well similar to home, except for the adrenalin junkies sailing out of the bus doors as they spun round the massive round-a-bouts, which the taxi driver assured me was rather unusual.

I was blown away by the high rises and apartment blocks in Nairobi, granted my taxi driver may have taken me the best routes, but in that case, the taxi drivers have got better at tourism then they were years before!

As I saw and experienced parts of Nairobi and caught up with customers, I wildly started hash-tagging #WhyILoveKenya, of course it helped that I’ll be heading home 2kg’s heavier thanks to my room attendant, Edith. Edith loaded my bathroom full of bottles of lemon grass conditioner, after I left her a reply to her welcome note which read: “Thanks for my conditioner Edith, I love it!”  For some weird reason I feel compelled to Pinterest my hair after Damian’s states that 94% of Pinterest users are women.


Speaking of Damian and the reason for this post, Damian Cook and his wife, Elizabeth,  put on an intense, action packed and totally at-the-heart-of-things E-Tourism conference for East Africa. After attending the Cape Town conference last year, and receiving rave reviews from our marketing manager after this year’s CT session, I was really excited. Once again, Damian did not disappoint. The conference was packed and Damian’s Kenyan customers were totally absorbed in the programme from beginning to end.

I was one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to present to the audience, which consisted of a number of our customers. What surprised me, and them, was how much rich functionality ResRequest has to offer. I was able to tell our story and was rewarded with several customers telling me that they’ll be heading back to their office to check out much of the functionality I mentioned.

Damian’s presentations were honest and right at the heart of the challenges we face. He paid particular attention to helping Kenyan customers understand, plan and implement a crisis management strategy around their current tourism crisis.

Of course I don’t know how long Edith’s conditioner supply will last so I sincerely hope that Damian plans the next E-Tourism conference soon.

Technology trends in tourism

Written by Jill Bennett-Howes

A few weeks ago I consciously unplugged from the matrix to join this year’s e-Tourism Summit. It felt great to be unplugged. I actually watched the air hostess mechanically deliver her flight-crash-pitch – which reminded me to quickly sneak in a 5 minute Google to confirm if there would be any life-threatening effects from my kids playing too much Minecraft.

As the wheels picked up, I listened to the guy in front of me tell his across-the-aisle colleague how he planned to single-handedly change the insurance industry, I wondered if he dyed his hair – as I set a reminder to chase my insurance broker for an update on my policies. I heard the crying 6 month-old three rows ahead of me and, as the air filled with the unmistakable smell of a mother’s worst in-flight nightmare, I thought back on my kids and scrolled through my photo gallery.

I was welcomed in Cape Town by her customary light showers and as I enjoyed the friendly banter from my Rwandan taxi driver, I tweeted a photo of table mountain in all it’s glory. In the hotel I readied myself for a long night of presentation-prep. I popped a quick Skype to the office – just to let them know that I was still alive. They told me they’d seen my check-in status on Facebook. Facebook – did they say Facebook?  Gosh I had almost forgotten – with three hours of no social contact it felt like a past life. I quickly checked recent friend threads, liked the obligatory posts, and of course I could not ignore my Instagram fan base so I uploaded a shot of the Cape Town ocean front.

As I reached for my laptop and juggled power cables to charge my iPhone, iPad and Mac, it dawned on me that I was delusional to think I could or would unplug. Staring at the cable-maze I realised – I am a child of the technology age. Whether I have 3G, Edge, WiFi or flight-mode – I’m connected. I’m a millennial. I love living in technology nirvana.

With that epiphany I walked enthusiastically into the e-Tourism summit, wanting to learn about the innovation around me and make sure I was plugged into the latest and greatest technology. The summit did not disappoint. As Damian Cook kicked off the event I felt some sort of energy take over. I had to hold myself down when the music started pumping and the dancers started moving. When he said: “please tweet and Facebook throughout the conference”, I felt like I had just been told school was out. I took off my heels, immersed myself in the presentations and I walked away with some great technology trends, social media tips and the intense pleasure of feeling alive. Alive and plugged in.

For those of you who were unable to attend (and you have got to make a plan to change that next year!) e-Tourism published copies of presentations and recorded highlights. I have included some of my personal favourites below along with some study material I enjoyed as I trawled the internet for ideas to apply to our business.

The 6th Annual E-Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town | ‘Be smart, be real, be bold’


The 6th Annual E-Tourism Africa Summit, sponsored by South African Tourism, brought together all the brightest and the best to share ways of harnessing digital technology and social media to grow the tourism industry.

This year’s event, which took place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on the 9th and 10th of September, attracted more than 360 participants and trended on Twitter in South Africa on both days. For those who couldn’t make it, here’s a summary of what transpired.

Ten key takeouts

  • Due to the social media explosion, your customers are your sales people.
  • Contemporary travel is more spontaneous and highly connected.
  • Wi-Fi is a travel essential; make it free if you want to bring in the customers.
  • Social media referrals carry more weight than traditional media.
  • Pictures and videos have stronger pulling power than words.
  • There are many free social media tools you can use to market your business.
  • Innovative social media campaigns involving real people can have enormous impact with relatively little marketing budget.
  • Clarity, simplicity and ease of use are the hallmarks of a successful online presence.
  • Emerging markets are an important source of future tourists.
  • Much of the future for travel and tourism is in mobile, especially in Africa

Read more

ResRequest Interface | Online credit card payments

When our customers research options for online payments, I find there are a few common questions they often ask me. These questions are included below to help you, as you workshop this strategy for your lodge.

How does ResRequest handle credit card payments?

ResRequest offers two online booking options. Each of these options can generate a credit card payment which can be recorded on the ResRequest booking.

  1. The ResRequest booking form: ResRequest’s booking form includes a credit card transaction step. This step very simply routes the to a secure payment gateway and then confirms the reservation.
  2. The ResRequest interface to: Customers who have created their own booking form and generate availability, rates and bookings using the ResRequest API. The booking process can be extended on your booking form to include payments with your preferred gateway. This payment interface is developed and supported by your web developer. Payments are then automatically recorded on ResRequest bookings.

Can I see some examples of how this works?

Yes! Take a look at our attached online payments information pack.
What will online credit cards cost me?

There are typically 3 vendors involved in the process for online bookings. Each vendor may apply a cost for the credit card transaction.

  1. ResRequest, or your online booking form
    Your online booking form is free of charge. Customers using our interface are charged a nominal fee of $10 per month (or 1% of ResRequest base rental).
  2. Credit card payment gateway
    The payment gateway is the online company who automates the transaction payment between the bank merchant e.g. Visa or MasterCard, and your bank. The gateway is responsible for providing a safe and secure service when verifying the credit card holder’s details. The payment gateway will have an agreement in place with your bank and generally negotiate transaction fees.
  3. Your merchant bank
    Each bank agreement differs depending on their policies. In some cases banks have aligned with payment gateways to ensure that they can offer bundled competitive charges.

Can online credit cards replace my swipe machine for ad hoc payments and guest check outs?

To remain competitive payment gateways can offer several online services that facilitate ad hoc payments. Examples of these services include: replacement of swipe machines and emailing secure payment link to debtors.

What are the credit card payment gateways ResRequest interfaces to?

As clients and banks have approached us we have developed interfaces to the most frequently recommended products. These products include:


For more information on this service contact us:

Emailinfo@resrequest.comTel: +27 (0) 31 762-2729
Website: | Support Tel: +27 (0) 35 772-5615


Can online payments work for lodges?

Online Credit Card Payments

In the past lodges have shied away from online payments citing concerns from “my customer will not understand complex travel logistics”, to concerns like “online payments will take away the personal contact with my customer”, and even “online bookings will create an unrealistic travel expectation”.

These concerns are valid and should be addressed. In fact they are already being addressed by pioneer lodges and travel sites like Expedia and Agoda. These businesses consider lodge stock sales as a feasible market and they are addressing sales challenges through packages, site content and seriously (seriously!) rigid booking terms and conditions.

If a customer can look, book and pay for a holiday to a lodge on a travel site, what’s stopping you from offering the same service on your own site? Answer that question and you may find it’s easy to put plans in place to direct your online customer to book on your own site.

Implementing online payments on your site caters for the customer who understands logistics, or a customer who is prepared to find out details after they have committed to the sale. It caters for the repeat guest, international guest, business guest and the impromptu buyer. Your online shopper has an inherent trust in web content and your brand, they have researched you on Tripadvisor, Facebook and other social media platforms. By the time they are prepared to enter their credit card details, they have concluded that you meet their expectations and they trust that you will fill in any gaps for them.

Ignoring online payments may mean you alienate a potentially lucrative market from your business. Why? Because these online customers prefer to shop at a time that suits them, on a device that suits them and they prefer instant (and electronic) response to their quoting and purchasing needs. This customer interprets your personal attention from your e-content such as, your social media posts and your web site content. They expect that you will fill in any gaps for them, even after their transaction is completed online. And if you don’t cater to their shopping preference – they will likely close your web page and find someone in your area who does.

Offering credit card transactions is a necessary service for this customer because it provides them with a convenient, effective time-saving method of processing payment, in a secure environment.

To find out specifics about how ResRequest can help you with online payments, take a look at our ResRequest online payments starter pack.